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Washington State University
Washington State University Office of the Provost

Strategic Plan fulfillment relies on assessment

Assessment matters a great deal for making decisions, whether you’re considering curriculum adjustments, participating in a student services program, or deciding if you want to eat a burrito from a gas station for lunch.

The information available (cost, nutritional value, how that burrito might settle in your stomach) can help you make an informed, intelligent decision. If you lack information, however, or your information lacks accuracy and relevance (perhaps said burrito looks and smells better than it tastes), you may reach a suboptimal decision.

As a University we aim to make data-informed, evidence-based decisions, and in many areas we’re doing a great job of gathering information and outcomes on which we can base assessment for continual improvement. While these processes are well established in the area of instruction, we must expand assessment efforts in other areas to enhance our service to students, and to better fulfill our land-grant mission.

WSU’s undergraduate programs have reported to the University about their work assessing student learning each year since 2009. Strong foundations for assessment now exist in all 60 undergraduate degree programs. Each includes elements to address student learning outcomes, and substantially all programs have curriculum maps and assessment plans. All programs are using assessment data in decision-making, and last year many programs used results for decisions about curriculum and/or instruction. We greatly appreciate the efforts our faculty and staff have made to put these processes in place and to use them for program improvement.

Graduate degree programs similarly assess student learning and use results to help meet the evolving needs and career goals of their students. Last year, many graduate programs made changes and improvements after reviewing assessment data with faculty.

Assessment of student learning helps support Theme 2 of WSU’s Strategic Plan, Goal 1 (excellent teaching and learning) and Goal 3 (quality curricula). Systematic assessment will also make up a key component of our 2017 institutional accreditation review. A summary of the 2015 Undergraduate Degree Program Assessment Reports is posted online here. The 2015 Graduate and Professional Program Assessment Update Summary Report is available here.

For student success programs, developing assessment processes also will be a priority moving forward.

“The University is committed to providing services and resources necessary for all students to succeed,” says Jerman Rose, special assistant to the Provost. “Over the last couple of years we have created more than 30 student success initiatives based on the experience of our staff and academic literature. What we don’t really know is which of these are the most effective in achieving our goal of helping students graduate. In order for us to be more effective, we need to develop systems to evaluate those outcomes.”

To develop those systems, the Office of the Provost and the Office of Assessment of Teaching and Learning work with programs and departments University-wide to establish and refine assessment plans. For example, a workshop to help faculty and staff with assessment efforts will be announced soon.

Assessment upholds our values of stewardship and accountability to provide quality and excellence. Assessment will continue to guide our development of programs and verify that we are helping faculty and students reach their instructional and learning goals.  We would like to thank everyone who is assisting in this effort and invite others to get involved.

If you have questions, comments, or feedback on this post, or other matters concerning the Office of the Provost, please email them to